Brian Downey Explains What Caused End of Thin Lizzy.


Brian Downey also recalls how he reacted to Lynott's death.

Brian Downey Phil Lynott Thin Lizzy

Drummer Explains What Caused End of Thin Lizzy.

Brian Downey Talks Openly

During a conversation with Classic Rock Magazine, founding Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey - the only constant member of the band alongside frontman Phil Lynott until the group ended in 1983 - talked about the end of the group in 1983, the drug issues they faced, the late frontman Phil Lynott, and more.

In 1983 the band split up. It's been said that Phil didn't want that to happen. What actually happened?"It was really a combination of Scott [Gorham, guitar] and Phil [Lynott, vocals/bass] who ended the band.

"Scott was having bad health issues, because of his drug addiction, and wanted to stop so he could work this out.

"Phil also felt it was time to move on. Halfway through the tour, which kept getting extended, we all knew this would be the end of Lizzy.

"I do recall that Darren [Wharton, keyboards] was very upset about it all. The rest of us just accepted it. After the final show [Nuremberg, September 4, 1983] we just shook hands and said goodbye. Simple as that."

How bad were the drug problems in the band at the time?"They were really awful. So much so that if we had stayed on the road, then the consequences could have been grim for both Phil and Scott.

"They were deep into addiction and needed to have the time to sort themselves out. Which Scott did, but Phil didn't."

At the end of 1983, Phil asked you to be part of his new band Grand Slam. You said yes but then changed your mind."What happened? I did agree to join. But then Phil said that they'd learn six or seven songs to play live and just jam for the rest of the set, and I didn't like that idea.

"However, I went along to rehearsals in Dublin for a while. These were close to where Phil lived, but it took me an hour or so to drive over.

"I'd get there for 2 PM - when the rehearsals were supposed to start - but nobody else turned up until six.

"After a week of this, I got disillusioned, and said something to the others, and after that, they began to arrive earlier. All except Phil.

"He'd turn up at all hours, because he was going out every night, get drunk and not make it home to 6 AM.

"I put it down to a lack of interest on his part, and told him that I couldn't carry on like this and was leaving the band.

"He accepted my decision, and we parted as friends, but he never tried to persuade me to stay."

It's been reported that you and Phil had discussed a Lizzy reunion just before he died. How close was it to happening?"We did talk about doing it. I was up for the idea, and Scott was almost ready after dealing with his health problems. But something had to be done about Phil's drug and drink problems."I did try to talk to Phil about his issues, but he was in denial. And I didn't want to come straight out and tell him bluntly that he needed help, so went round the houses a bit."But Phil's problems were always going to be the stumbling block."

Phil died in 1986. How shocked were you by his death?"It surprised me and everyone else. We all knew he was ill, but never expected this. None of us had any idea how much damage he'd done to his liver and other organs.

"His body was going into shutdown. But when his death was announced, it was a massive shock - and remained so for years. Phil had an amazing constitution, and we all thought he was invincible.

"Maybe we should have taken more notice and spoken up, but we never did. Besides, would he have listened? In that era, nobody went into rehab.

"The last time I saw him was when I was asked to be his drummer and mime along to 19 on the Christmas [1985] edition of the TV show Razzamatazz.

"He looked bloated and overweight, although still in good form. Phil was drinking brandy on the early-afternoon flight up to Newcastle, where the show was filmed.

"We missed our dress rehearsal slot because he locked himself in the dressing room.

"When he finally opened the door, he looked groggy and was sweating - he'd obviously taken something. In the end, all we got was a five-minute rehearsal, instead of the planned 30 minutes.

"Phil really was in no fit state to do the show, although it came out OK."

How would you sum up Phil Lynott as a person and as a musician?"He was such an important part of my life. A good friend and mentor. I would go to him for advice instead of my dad. He had such an amazing personality.

"As a musician, he was so dedicated. When it was decided that he should play bass as well as sing in Lizzy, he had very little time to learn from scratch how to play that instrument.

"So he locked himself in his flat and pulled it off.

"I expected Phil's bass playing to be a disaster at our first show, but he was excellent. He became such an amazing player, with his own unbelievable style.

"As a songwriter, he was second to none. Whatever Phil wanted to do, he'd work hard to master. There is nobody like him these days."

You were part of the revived Thin Lizzy from 1996 to 2016. Why did you leave?"When I was asked by Scott to join in '96, I expected it to be for one tour. Which would have been a fun thing to do. But then we did a second tour, and it kept going.

"I wasn't prepared to do this, so left in 1998. But I came back in 2010. However, in 2016 it was suggested we change the name to Black Star Riders and record an album. That didn't interest me, so I left them to it."

In 2012 wasn't there talk about doing a new Thin Lizzy studio album?"Yes. And we even did demos. When this was first put forward, I didn't think it was a good idea. I was happy with us just playing our songs live, and leaving it at that.

"But despite my reticence, the idea grew legs. Everybody else was into the excitement of doing a new studio album, and I was carried along with it for a while.

"Thankfully, common sense prevailed and we stopped looking to do an album. However, the rest of the guys were still keen to record, which is when the name change happened. That's when I decided to step aside."

 


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